The Power of Masks in Horror

As a total horror movie nerd, I have been obsessed with masks for quite some time. The video below shows 15 masks from various horror movies. I only had two problems with this video. The first is that Leatherface comes from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; they are not two separate entities. The second problem was that the video did not include the pig mask from Saw.

At any rate you might say my obsession with masks started when I saw Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween for the first time. The scene that grabbed me was in the beginning of the movie, 15 years after Michael's first kills as a child.  In the scene you observe Michael's room in Smith's Grove Sanitarium.

This set always struck me as one of the coolest installations I had ever seen. The walls lined with individually made masks created by a mad psychopath cover the walls of the room and become as much of the focus as Michael himself.  The set is the reason I began my horror related installations in the first place.

Notice that you never see Michael's actual face in the scene. He is completely obscured from the viewer at all times in Rob Zombie's film, with the exception of him as a child at the beginning of the movie. I believe it allows us to see humanity become automated psychopathy.  I always thought that masks in horror movies were to both create an identity or brand for the killer, as well as, dehumanize them.  This is one of the reasons I never found the original Friday the 13th frightening, only because you see the killer's face (Jason Vorhees mother). 

Image courtesy of

 Something like the image below of Jason Vorhees is far more effective. The mask not only branded the franchise, but each mask was individually copyrighted.

Image courtesy of

 In this quick summary of Jason's masks you can see each individual mask in succession. Jason Vorhees-11 Looks of Terror

 Over the next few months I am going to be researching masks, their history, application, creation, and then I wanted to do my own series of both painted and sculptural masks. I will keep you all updated about my research.


What Do I Think About When Creating A Work?

People often ask me what I was feeling when I create a work. I never quite know how to answer that question. Truth be told, it takes months after I create a painting to feel attached to it. Creating is such an out of body experience for me that much of what I am creating seems to come from the subconscious. This may be in part that I use a lot of stream of consciousness when I create.

I focus on two things when I approach a blank canvas or sheet of paper. One is texture and the second is line. When I lay in texture, it is a little free flowing in placement as it creates the composition, I decide on how I want the flow of the composition to be and then I lay in the texture.  Lately I have been obsessed with decaying urban structures and I love using insulation foam and caulk to replicate this these bulbous dilapidating structures. I got interested in this texture when I moved to the northeast. There are so many abandoned factories and buildings that I have a wealth of inspiration every time I break into one of these buildings. (Cough cough.) Much of the collaged imagery I use are from left over photographs, magazines, books left behind in these buildings. I love the faded and peeling effect that these papers create in relation to my texture. I also think that the imagery works to lay in representational imagery that further boost the concept in my work.

I feel that these new experiences moving from the south to the north have given me a new perspective on my art. This is in part due to complete environment change and a serious life change, and I can't ignore that I am evolving as an artist. Evolving is scary. However, I am ready to evolve. I am ready to leave behind old ideas and transform them into new ideas. I want to do some more introspection and create some truly personal pieces so that I am not removed from my piece, but completely involved in the world I am creating. I want to step into a piece and become changed as I create it.

Much of the way I approach a work in terms of line is through music. Music is a very tactile experience for me. I can feel the sound and I let the sound flow through me and create the rises and falls of the music through line. I experience the world through line.

Today I went through and began to lay in line work and my shades for my black and white series. I also began a new work in my Synesthetic Memories series, using the song by the Tedeschi Trucks Band called Midnight in Harlem. I had a wonderful experience last night laying out on my widow's peak staring at the stars listening to this song.


New Work: Wasted Perfection in My New Series Disordered Ramblings


New Painting "Wasted Perfection" in Process


Returning to this painting after a 20 day vacation in Atlanta, Georgia, Athens, Georgia, and Norfolk, Virginia presented new challenges in picking up on the ideas for the work where I left off. Still new to including text in my work, I made the mistake of scratching text into the piece before I applied acrylic paint. Acrylic paint is thick and would effortlessly cover the text design I originally intended. I often say that creating a painting is like putting together a puzzle. Figuring out how to include paint in the same areas of text proved to be quite a challenge. 

 To resolve this I first had to clear my mind and I could find no better way for me to dust out the cobwebs than some automatic writing to music. Blind abstract contoured line is like stretching before a run, it opens my mind and allows for me to let go. Combining two stream of consciousness contoured line works within the same piece created a whole new layer to the composition. Click the link to listen to Reverse by The War on Drugs. This was the song I used to create the new contoured lines in the work in progress reflected in the second image below. I used the sounds from this song to create the gentle rises and falls heard in the musical composition and translated this to the borders of the existing composition in the image above. In a way, the sound from the song Reverse forms enclosed borders of the song Renaissance! by San Fermin structuring the original composition with its heavier textures and bolder line work that blends in and out of contoured borders dissolving itself into a blurred and distorted image.

 This ongoing piece shown in this second image below is the result of a fourth day of work on the piece Wasted Perfection  in my new Disordered Ramblings series. 

 Having already gotten a potential buyer for the work I am very excited to continue and update my progress towards the completed piece.

 Here are some details showing how I am working text and collage into the composition. 


New Work in Series Disordered Ramblings